Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sometimes there's a man . . .

Sometimes there’s a man . . . .

If you know those words and the film context in which they are taken from than read on, and if not, please read on.

There are so many things to get upset about in the news these days; healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy (which is a big issue since this weekend is a holiday weekend in which 9.6% of all Americans are unemployed), Iran, people hacking into the British Royal family’s text and voicemail message and etcetera. The list is endless; as well it should be in such interesting time as these in which we live. That being said, there is one issue that Uncle Ludwig would like to take issue with at this moment. That issue is the Los Angeles Unified School District and their building of temples to learning in a school district that has 50%+ of its students (grade 9-12) dropping out.

First I’d like to take a moment and address the procedure for this first full post. Blogs are all opinion, for the most part, but opinion without facts leave a lot to be desired in any writing exercise. One hope I have is that this exercise will be more than just a minor soap box onto which this author will climb atop of and begin shouting. This world has plenty of modern day Torquemadas running around, and adding one more won’t make a big difference, so facts blended with satiric witticisms will be the name of the game for this first “real” posting in this blog. The city of Los Angeles and the citizens of the state of California have lost their collective minds. Speaking as one who loves the state of California, I feel that it would be a further hypocrisy to ignore the problems of an education system (especially such a large education system) simply because I like the beaches and the weather that the state of California has to offer.

There are so many reasons to look towards California and shake ones head, but at the same time the weather is tremendous, and where else can one see drunk overpaid (so-called) actresses and actors self-destructing in ways that would make Caligula and Nero blush. The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools (named after the late Attorney General for the United States, since he was gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan in 1968 on the property where the current school has recently opened its door) cost $578,000,000.00. The entire price has been typed out so that the readers have a clear understanding of the total number of zeroes involved here, and no this author is not referring to the LA Unified School District (LAUSD) board members or its president. Let’s all think about that number for a minute . . . ok . . . another minute . . . and we’re back. To those of you, who did not pick up a weapon in anger or shake their head until they experienced something other than total revulsion at this fact, shame on you.

This institution of not-so-higher learning will eventually house 4,200 students ranging in ages from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The aim of this elaborate mausoleum to education in Los Angeles is to make kids want to go to school. Remember folks it’s not about what you learn, it’s about where you learn. The LAUSD has seen to it that kids that will attend this new school will not return to a cinder block detention center of learning (ala Guantanamo Bay), but rather these kids will enjoy a marble memorial of the school’s namesake, a state-of-the-art swimming pool (whatever that means), well manicured lawns, fine art murals and more glass than a Manhattan high-rise office building. Well now you know those facts, so we’ll continue to other interesting fact about the LAUSD.

Further exacerbating the educational waste within the LAUSD is the fact that educators in LA are being paid not to educate. You’ve read that topic sentence correctly. Educators paid not to educate. In a little read article from May 6, 2009, by Jason Song, and entitled, “L.A. Unified Pays Teachers Not to Teach,” it appears that the citizen of Los Angeles and of the state of California (Caulifornia is your from Austria) are forking over roughly $10,000,000.00 a year to pay teachers who are suspended from duty pending their investigations. 160 teachers/instructors are being back their whole salaries to do nothing. One teacher, Matthew Kim, suspended in 2002, has been collecting his $68,000.00 salary, plus benefits, for more than seven years (at the time of the article). The LAUSD has spent a total of $2,000,000.00 on legal costs and his salary during that time. How about those facts? This guy makes a decent living doing nothing. He is the modern Kramer of the LAUSD, him and 159 other teachers/instructors.

These last few facts are meant to awaken those reading this blog posting into either a fit of rage or possibly disgust. Well not really, but doesn’t it irk some of you to know that while the state of California cannot pay its citizens’ tax refunds, the education system of that state can pour money, hand over fist, to teachers that don’t teach and into schools where the dropout rate is 50%+. While the lawmakers in Washington, D.C. pander about discussing healthcare reform, the economy and how to get reelected in the fall, this country’s public education system continues to spiral into hell.

So what is the point of this entire blog posting? Why do you need to care? How do the problems of the LAUSD affect me? The point of this entire exercise is to bring to light the real problem facing this country. The long-term problem, which has continuesdto go unsolved for decades, is the abysmal public education system of this country. People sit back and wonder why the undergraduate tuitions and graduate school tuitions increase year after year. The answer to these questions lies in the fact that this country’s public schools are not providing a solid foundation for American children. So what used to take three to four years to complete, now takes five to six years. Instead of paying to educate children while their young and costs of educating America’s young adults has shifted and today’s college graduates carry a load of debt that further disenables the productivity of the nation as a whole.

Education reform is the modern day equivalent of what roads were to the Roman Empire. Roman legions and the hordes of camp followers moved along roads that enabled lines of communication to develop across the empire. Roads stretched to Gaul, roads enabled the legions to lay siege at Masada, roads enabled Julius Gaius Caesar to emerge victorious in Germania and roads enabled Pax Romana to last for more than two hundred years. The education system in the United States of America is the modern day equivalent. This country sits atop the creation of the telephone, hastened the spread of television (see Edward R. Murrow’s 1958 speech to the Radio-Television Directors News Association, RTDNA) and brought about the advent of the internet (with Al Gore’s help). America sits atop the precipice of the information age. So what do we do? Do we build upon this in some meaningful way? Do we seek to further educate our children to enable them to live and thrive in the information age? No.

The situation in the LAUSD is but one example of the waste and loss within the education system. While the GOP and Democrats fight over healthcare, the real long term solution to America’s problems goes overlooked. Instead of clamoring to get our kids into school six days a week, parents are more concerned with getting their kids the newest and trendiest technology. Arms races, missiles races and space races aside, the education race is something this country cannot afford to lose. Perhaps the era of American greatness in the Twentieth century has passed (it is the twenty-first century after all), but that does not mean that American greatness is wholly out of reach. The world is just beginning to see the total possibilities of the information age (capitalize the name of the age it if you want), but somewhere along the line Americans have fallen asleep at the wheel. We’re too concerned with the next American Idol or too complacent with our current existence to see past the horizon. While waste continues in Los Angeles, it also continues across this nation. There are plenty of well qualified people to educate this country’s children, but we lose them with menial salaries and qualitative analysis, which loses focus on the most important aspect of education; youthful open minds seeking knowledge.

While lawmakers continue to focus of short term matters (and yes healthcare is only another short term matter), education reform of the highest caliber will continue to go overlooked. Edward R. Murrow once wrote, concerning the need for television to educate:

"To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost." (Speech to the RTNDA, 1958)

Right now the tube is flickering on the education system in America. American’s are complacent to know that they’re kids go to school, but on the whole, how concerned are they with what happens during that time at school? When will we begin to reevaluate our education system and realize that instead of patching up the minor problems of this nation that we ignored a large systemic problem that has crippled and continues to cripple this nation?

Perhaps this brief soap box written oration has shed some light to the few that may read this posting, but even if it helps to get only one or two people thinking, well then I have done something productive with my time. We Americans pride ourselves on our past, and with the doldrums brought about by our current economic situation we despair that the best of times have come and gone, but this author thinks, perhaps naively, that Americans should pride themselves on the things to come. This country sits atop a lofty set of accomplishments, and while we may despair for the time being, there can be a bright future ahead if we only begin to look to the long term, make the hard choices, give up more money for our children’s education and then see the brilliance of the horizon to come for the future of this nation.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Best of Things To Come

While listening to Radiohead's most famous single, Creep, I was left reading a friend's blog. That friend is Dave Poole ladies and gentlemen. Perhaps the best friend a dude of my caliber can ever hope to attain. Thank you Dave for inspiring in me the creative desire to go forth with this effort and enter an X in his giant tic-tac-toe game that is known as:

So please go to his blog and read some of what Dave writes. Its not bad, actually its pretty damned moving stuff. Nevertheless Dave recommended a blog of my own to counter his, and though his writing is much more exciting than my own, I recommend reading both ladies and gentlemen (that should cover most of the reading public) and judging for yourselves.

Well here starts the beginning of a beautiful friendship as Humphrey Bogart once said to Claude Rains. By the way, if you have never seen Casablanca you should probably kill yourself. NOT REALLY! Put down the gun, knife or rope and grow up. The friendship to which I so cavalierly refer is between the writer and the reader. Between Sodom and Gomorrah. Between the light and dark that we all think of, but seldom say out loud. If I keep this up this will sound like some DC Comics promo for some superhero blogger. At any rate I hope to enjoy both what I write, what I learn from this journey and from what I hope to learn from you, the readers, as well.

What will be discussed here Ludwig, you may very well ask? Everything and anything. Politics, sex, work, sex, military stuff, history, sex, obsessive and compulsive mannerisms and sex. That about covers it all.

But in all seriousness please comment on both my and Dave's posts and feel free to let loose with your views on topics brought up for discussion. Additionally please remember that though I am a cynic in many respects I will work to stay on the positive and if I do go a little towards the Dark Side please feel free to remind this writer to try to avoid the negative outlook on the topics discussed in this blog.

- Ludgwig